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Boston judge tosses MIT students' gag order
From: David Farber <dave () farber net>
Date: Tue, 19 Aug 2008 14:35:44 -0400
Begin forwarded message:
From: Richard Forno <rforno () infowarrior org>
Date: August 19, 2008 1:54:46 PM EDT
To: Undisclosed-recipients: <>;
Cc: Dave Farber <dave () farber net>
Subject: Boston judge tosses MIT students' gag order
Federal Judge Throws Out Gag Order Against Boston Students in Subway
By Kim Zetter
August 19, 2008 | 1:07:19 PMCategories: DefCon, Hacks and Cracks, The
A federal judge in Boston this morning threw out a temporary gag order
against three MIT students who were prevented from presenting a talk
on security vulnerabilities in the Boston subway's fare tickets and
U.S. District Judge George A. O'Toole, Jr., vacated the temporary 10-
day restraining order that another judge had instituted last Saturday
against the students and which was scheduled to expire today. District
Judge O'Toole also threw out a request by the Massachusetts Bay
Transportation Authority to obtain a preliminary injunction against
the students to expand the restraining order beyond the original 10
"It's great news for the free speech rights for these students," said
Rebecca Jesche, a spokeswoman for the Electronic Frontier Foundation,
which represented the students. "Although it's extremely unfortunate
that the students were not allowed to give their talk at DefCon."
District Judge O'Toole, in making his decision, ruled against using
the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to invoke the restraining order,
saying that the anti-hacking statute, which applies to code
transmitted to computer systems, does not apply to speech. A weekend
judge who had heard the case last Saturday and had granted the
restraining order on behalf of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation
Authority, had invoked the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act in his
decision, implying that speech about how a system was vulnerable to
hacking was equivalent to someone actually hacking the system -- or at
least aided that illegal hacking activity.
"It was definitely unfair to use that statute to silence the
students," Jesche said. "We certainly hope the next time that people
are allowed to present their important research instead of being
silenced by bogus lawsuits."
Zach Anderson, one of the students sued in the case, was elated by the
judge's decision today.
"We're glad the court actually saw things as they should be," he told
Threat Level. "We're glad the court read the law correctly."
Although the restraining order has gone away, it doesn't mean the
students are completely in the clear. Still standing is a lawsuit the
MBTA has filed against them, accusing them of hacking its system and
Anderson said the students regret that they weren't allowed to give
their presentation last Sunday but have no intention of giving the
"All the material we were going to talk about has been made
public . . . and more," he said, referring to the fact that their
presentation slides as well as a confidential report describing
vulnerabilities with the Boston system were posted online after the
judge granted the restraining order.
Anderson maintains that the students never planned to present key
information that would have allowed someone to defraud the MBTA system
and says they still stand by that.
"Despite what's happened, and the animosity the MBTA has brought
toward us," he said, "we don't want people to defraud them."
When asked if he and the other students ever created bogus MBTA cards
and used them to get free rides on Boston's T subway, Anderson
declined to respond.
"I can't really comment on the actual means that we used," he said.
"It's probably not a good idea to comment on that. We certainly did
not get free fare. We had to spend several hundred dollars on buying
tickets to look at the data structure. Far more than we ever would
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- Boston judge tosses MIT students' gag order David Farber (Aug 19)